by Inez (McDonald) Foley
Daughter of Elmer and Emma McDonald, Niece of Alvin McDonald
During the life time of any of the McDonalds, who lived at the cave in those early days, there was always a tender spot in their hearts for Wind Cave and a heartache for its loss and the loved ones, buried on that nearby hillside. I am the last one still living of the McDonalds who lived at Wind Cave, an I am glad to know that the McDonald memory is still kept live and that people know of the McDonald's gift (and a gift it was) of years of difficult and dangerous work in faithfully exploring and opening up the many miles of the Wonderful Wind Cave, that is now enjoyed by so many.
An illustration on pages 37 and 38 in the Wind Cave book shows an early picture of the Wind Cave buildings. There is a little white house on a hillside. In that house, I was born on September 1, 1896. On February 12, 1900, a little baby brother was born. The baby lived only a day and was buried beside Uncle Alvah, who had died in 1893.
The snow was deep the day Ira was laid to rest. The little funeral procession was on foot, as it made its way from the little white house, then across the high foot bridge that spanned the Beaver Creek ravine. My father Elmer McDonald carried me, and a young neighbor boy, Vere Brooks, carried my sister, Irene. It was a sad day of all of us to leave our baby there.
Both graves were mounded and bordered with Wind Cave specimens and lilacs were planted there.
A statue of Uncle Alvah had been at the head of his grave and a steel railing enclosed both grave sites. Now the statue and railing are gone and there is no marker on baby Ira's grave. Would it be possible to have the statue replaced and also the railing?
The story that was told to me was not a very prepossessing one about the disappearance of the statue. It was told to me that the wife of one Superintendent didn’t like to took at that "spooky statue" every time she looked out of her window and she had clout enough to have it hauled to some unknown ravine and have it dumped there. How could such destruction be condoned and is it too late to rectify such a desecration?
Until late in 1901 or early 1902 that little white house was the home of my father and mother, Elmer and Emma McDonald and my sister Irene (two years older than I was), and it was my home too. I remember distinctly that we were there in September, 1901 – as I as standing near my mother, when my father told her the shocking news that President McKinley had been shot. On one wall of our little home were two large pictures of McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, as they were special.
Some time after that, unfeeling minions of the Mighty Federal Government tore down our little white house. I remember the walls lying flat on the ground. I also remember that we moved into the deep underground cellar that had been jined to our house by a connecting pantry. That night Mother and Dad had their bed in a vegetable bin. Irene and I had our bed on a wide over-hanging shelf. We didn't stay there long as the high handed minions of the Government would have removed us forcibly if we had stayed.
So we moved away to a place six or seven miles distant, which was owed by the Bookers, who had been true blue friends through the years of feuding between the gang of renegades and the McDonalds for possession of Wind Cave. We were living on the Booker place when my brother Raemond was born in Pringle on October 2, 1902. We continued to live there until January, 1904, when we moved to Hot Springs so that Irene and I could enter school although our Mother had taught us to read and paint and do arithmetic and to spell.
That ended the Wind Cave episode in our lives except for the litigation that ended, not only the loss of Wind Cave, but also with no recompense for the years of faithful work in exploring and opening up the many rooms.
My Mother wrote an excellent account of the early days at Wind Cave. I think the original copy is at Wind Cave, but I have a copy of the article. She wrote how my grandfather Jesse D. McDonald was conned into letting the Stablers get a foothold at the cave. She also states that the United States Court decided in favor of Jesse D. McDonald, but that the Secretary of the Interior held it for a natural curiosity with recommendations for it to be turned into a National Park, which has since been done.
Although most of the early history is quite complete, much more could be written entitled "The Rest of the Wind Cave Story."
In the feud at Wind Cave, every foul means was used to oust the McDonalds. Jesse D. McDonald's log cabin was torched and records were destroyed. The most important item that was destroyed was a huge wall map of all the routes explored and the rooms opened up for tourists. Shady characters stole our horses and shot our cattle. I can remember my Mother weeping over a young cow that couldn’t get up because her spinal cord had been severed by a rifle bullet. Some members of the gang were members of a low incestuous family living several miles away. My Mother, Emma McDonald, felt very certain that all the harassment was part of the Stabler scheme to gain control of the cave. It is a matter of record how Stablers robbed the accounts while the McDonalds didn’t realize enough money for groceries.
My grandfather, Jesse D. McDonald, was a Quaker. He was honorable and believed others to be equally honest and honorable. He was not worldly wise and so was hardly qualified to cope with a gangster element – a fact which he learned too late to his sorrow and to the sorrow of his family. The Quakers were (and still are) honorable peaceful people who believe that right will always win – and by peaceful means.
I lived with the Wind Cave History for most of my young years. I can remember my Mother telling (with bitterness) how the McDonalds came stumbling out of the cave when the gun-toters released them after a night of captivity in the cave. Mother's Viking blood rose to a dangerous point; and she would willingly have taken up arms and engaged in battle; but the peaceful Quaker policy prevailed.
So as Mother wrote – The Stabler gang held the cave with guns for three years, shutting the McDonalds out. In the meantime, my grandfather took the case to court, which was decided in his favor – only to have the Federal Government take possession as a natural curiosity. So the McDonalds and the Stablers were both booted out.
The Wind Cave Story would have been written differently if the McDonald's in those early days had the spirit of Elmer’s wife and children and grandson, Raemond Elmer Jesse McDonald, Jr. – or Rae, as we called him, but he was known to everyone else as "Mac". He was little but he was mighty. He was with the Air Borne in World War II and was dropped into dangerous locations to keep communications open between the battle front and the officer’s headquarters. If Rae had lived in those early Wind Cave Days, he would have communicated with the outlaws in a language they understood and they would have fled so fast they couldn't be seen for heel dust.
Elmer's son, Raemond, Sr., would also have given a good account of himself if he had been a young man in those days. With his knowledge of law, obtained in college, he would have been an advocate in the cause of justice. His engineering knowledge would have been put to use to begin the improvement of facilities at Wind Cave – but Raemond and Rae, Jr. were not born when the die was cast.
My sister Irene was a fearless rider and would have ridden herd on our cattle and horses and thwarted the activities of thieves and vandals. Irene had the courage and marksmanship to have winged the culprits and thereby changed their way of life and perhaps saved their souls, which would have been a source of gratification to her, as well as a star in her crown as she loved the Lord.
As for myself, I would have been side by side with my sister in every endeavor as we had ridden horses as long as I can remember. Irene was always the leader, but I wasn't far behind, and my marksmanship is commendable – as I have blasted the head off of a rattlesnake from my position on a saddle horse.
Our Mother's Viking Blood had invigorated the peaceful Quaker strain so the next generation and the next realized that battle